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304 Scholars Sent Abroad On HEC Scholarships Never Returned

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As many as 304 recipients of the Faculty Development Program (FDP) – the scholarship program offered by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to university scholars – have not returned to Pakistan, causing the national exchequer a loss of over 1.12 billion rupees.

According to HEC’s official documents (available with Naya Daur), HEC sent more than 2,961 scholars from its universities for training abroad for up to 12 months. Of these, 304 scholars have gone off to other countries upon completion of their training and haven’t returned to Pakistan.

It is also worth recalling that more than a hundred recipients of the PhD scholarship, that HEC also offers to Pakistani students, have also chosen to go off to other countries instead of returning to Pakistan. This was stated in a briefing to a committee of the National Assembly by HEC officials. They also revealed that as many as 52 students had had to return to Pakistan after failing in their postgraduate programmes.

According to HEC’s official documents, it had launched the PFD scholarship in addition to the PhD scholarship a few years ago, under which scholars from various universities were sent for six to twelve months abroad to enhance their education. After the end of their studies, they would return to Pakistan and finish their research work. According to sources in the HEC, the scholarship was meant to enhance research work in Pakistan but many professors used the facility for their own purposes and made it an instrument to escape abroad. Moreover, there isn’t any legal provision in the terms and conditions of the scholarship that binds its recipients to return to Pakistan after finishing their education abroad.

Of the 2,961 scholars sent abroad on the FDP scholarship, 178 enrolled in agriculture and veterinary science programs, 111 in arts and humanities, 325 in biology and medicine, 350 in physics, 91 in business administration, 1,120 in engineering, 28 in management sciences, and 478 in social sciences programs. As per the documents, 1,958 recipients of the scholarship have returned to Pakistan, while 505 are currently enrolled, and 304 have failed to return even after finishing their courses. Of the latter, 104 professors are in the UK, 17 in the USA, 16 in Australia, 18 in Canada, 2 in Denmark, 5 in Finland, 10 in Germany, 4 in Italy, 2 in Malaysia, 2 in New Zeeland, 12 in Sweden and one each in Japan and the Netherlands.

Petitions have been filed against 148 of the scholars who have failed to return, while an inquiry has already been initiated for another 10. One professor has returned the amount of the scholarship which they received from HEC.

Meanwhile, representatives of HEC, when contacted for comment, said that the majority of scholars have returned to Pakistan after completion of their studies, while the cases of those who have been unable to complete their studies are being followed up. However, HEC plans to further improve its mechanism of following up on its scholars through a University Management Committee and by linking payments to the scholars with their academic progress. It is hoped that such a strategy will bear better results both for the scholarship awarding body and the scholars.

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